Fund Oakland Journalism through Spot.Us

12 Dec

The blogoaksphere has been busy this week debating the merits of the reporting in our local papers and appreciating the incredible work done by Oakland bloggers. It’s clear to me that both paid journalists at newspapers and bloggers are necessary to provide complete coverage of Oakland, but there’s a new project that provides yet another way for stories to be told.

It’s called Spot.Us, and it’s a project of the Center for Media Change that is:

an open source project, to pioneer “community funded reporting.” Through Spot.Us the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories. All donations are tax deductible and if a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, your donation will be reimbursed. Otherwise, all content is made available to all through a Creative Commons license. It’s a marketplace where independent reporters, community members and news organizations can come together and collaborate.

I had heard about Spot.Us a little while ago but am newly excited about the project because there are a couple Oakland focus pitches that have been submitted.

Alex Gronke, who publishes OakBook, made a pitch for a story on “Oakland Police Blues.” If his pitch is funded, he will research and write a story about what’s wrong with OPD. He hopes to:

arrive at a deeper understanding of what ails OPD, what internal culture gives rise to the failings described above. This is not the sort of reporting that is likely to turn up evidence of concealed wrongdoing, but rather it seeks to shine a light on problems that are hiding in plain sight.

The other Oakland focused pitch is by Maya Mirsky, and it asks, “Is the East Bay prepared for an earthquake?” Now if you read V Smoothe’s post a few months ago about eartquakes and the thread of comments following it, you’ll probably know that the short answer to this question is NO. But Maya is looking to dig a bit deeper to answer these questions:

What actually would happen in an earthquake and/or fire? How many people are expected to die? What can police, fire and other first responders actually do? What do city agencies want residents to take their own responsibility for? How feasible are things like the walkie talkie network in the Oakland-Berkeley hills or emergency training cells? What can communication technology do to help?

Both of these pitches sound like they could lead to important stories that aren’t being told elsewhere. So if you’d like to chip in to fund these pitches, visit Spot.Us to fund Alex’s or Maya’s pitches.

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